The events began the liberation of German-occupied France from Nazi control and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front. D-Day was a pivotal point during Operation Overlord (the codename for the Battle of Normandy) and changed the history of Europe.
Five strategic beachheads were established in Normandy across an 50 mile (80km) stretch of coastline. The five sectors were codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Utah and Omaha were under American leadership, Canadian forces tacked Juno while British troops landed at Gold and Sword.
The D-Day landing beaches
There were three main phases to D-Day.
- the air landings that focussed on Utah Beach in the west and Sword Beach to the east
- the air and naval bombardments of the Atlantic Wall
- the seaborne landings across the five beaches which was codenamed Operation Neptune.
The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment together with an airborne assault of 24,000 troops. La Pointe du Hoc between Utah and Omaha beaches also saw fierce fighting as the Allied forces scaled the cliffs before making their way inland.
German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
As well as the beaches Normandy hosts many visitors each year to the museums, memorials, strategic sites and war cemeteries.
The video below gives a very good overview of the events leading up to D-Day, the planning and how the day unfolded.
Summary of the Key Sites
Utah Beach and Sainte-Mère-Église
Utah Beach and various sculptures/memorials
D-Day Landing Museum (Musée du Débarquement Utah Beach)
D-Day Experience and Dead Man’s Corner Museums
Normandy Victory Museum
Azeville Gun Battery
US Assualt Landing Craft (Higgins boat) at Carentan
1944 Historic Tour of Carentan
Écausseville Airship Hanger
The Fort of Tatihou
Marcouf 44 Command Post
Crisbecq Gune Battery Museum
WW2 Museum at Quinéville
Sainte-Mère-Église Open Air Museum (self guided tour)
German military cemetery at Orglandes
Sainte-Mère-Église church and effigy of John Steele
For more details, visit the Utah Beach page.
Omaha Beach and La Pointe du Hoc
Overlord Museum Omaha Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer
La Pointe du Hoc site and Visitor Centre
Big Red One Assault Museum Colleville-sur-Mer
Normandy American Cemetery and Visitor Centre at Colleville-sur-Mer
Maisy Gun Battery at Grandcamp-Maisy
Liberation House at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
Omaha Beach Memorial Museum (Musée Memorial d’Omaha Beach) at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
The Omaha D-Day Museum (Musée D-Day Omaha) at Vierville-sur-Mer
La Cambe German military cemetery
Les Braves sculpture and memorial at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
The Peace statue at Grandcamp-Maisy
For more details, visit the Omaha Beach page.
Arromanches 360 circular cinema
Arromanches Landings Museum (Musée du Débarquement)
Longues-sur-Mer German gun battery
America Gold Beach Museum (Musée America Gold Beach) at Ver-sur-Mer
Museum of undersea wrecks at Commes – Port en Bessin
Ryes, Bazenville war cemetery
For more details, visit the Gold Beach page.
Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian war cemetery
For more details, visit the Juno Beach page.
Pegasus Bridge and Memorial at Ranville
Merville Gun Battery Museum Museum at Merville-Franceville
Hillman Strongpoint at Colleville-Montgomery
1944 Radar Museum at Douvres-La-Déliverande
No. 4 Commando Museum at Ouistreham
Atlantic Wall Museum at Ouistreham
Commonwealth war cemeteries at Douvres-La-Déliverande, Hermanville and Ranville
For more details, visit the Sword Beach page.
Ranville War Cemetery
The museum at Sword Beach
In addition, this web page lists 107 Battle of Normandy sites including 43 WW2 museums, 26 WW2 cemeteries, 15 WW2 sites, 11 historic sites and monuments, 8 monuments and places of remembrance, 2 museums and 1 other site. You can search by type or name of the site or by the commune name. You can also see the sites on a map rather than in a list.
Links to information about each of the five D Day landing beaches are below.